A couple of weeks ago we attended the Microsoft Exchange Conference in Orlando- you can read an abstract of the previous post here. All in all it was a great conference and had me thinking about the product’s early beginnings and where it may be going in the future. A lot has changed since Exchange 4.0 was released in early 1996 but at the core Exchange is first and foremost a tool for internet mail delivery.
It’s hard to think that nearly 20 years have passed since Microsoft began its migration from the internal XENIX-based messaging system to what would be Exchange Server 4.0. The migration took nearly three years. In April 1996, the product was officially released to the public as an X.400-based messaging system supporting an X.500 based directory structure that would later evolve into Active Directory. Since then, the product features and functionality have grown exponentially.
A few months ago I wrote an article that highlighted the evolution of Exchange, as it pertains to day to day activities for a messaging administrator. The take away was that each version has improved upon the previous one, yet at the same time, presenting new challenges for administrators. In a nutshell this has done a couple of things for us, kept it interesting and provided job security. I guess the series of articles are really about how we tackle the things affecting our environments and this article is more about how Exchange has been evolving to tackle them for us.
So let’s take a moment to highlight the features and improvement made to Microsoft Exchange to address our issues:
4.0-Works for Microsoft, why not everyone else?
4.1, 4.5, 5.0- Internet Mail Connector (SMTP) and provided web access to e-mail (EWA, later to become OWA). From the Exchange Team Blog, “Exchange 4.0 spent a long time in development, but it was a little rough around the edges. We immediately started work on a 4.1. After having implemented X400 as the primary messaging protocol and an X500-like directory structure, we quickly realized that this Internet 'thing' was really going to take off. It started to become obvious that we needed more than a .1 release. The 4.1 moniker was dropped and we were now working toward 4.5. After implementing several ground-breaking protocols such as SMTP and LDAP v2, this was certainly not a dot release. We shipped as Exchange 5.0 in early '97.”
5.5-High availability (introduced clustering), LDAP v3, NNTP
Exchange 2000 (v6.0)-Major changes, the largest of which was reliance upon Active Directory as it didn’t ship with its own directory service. Improvements were also made in clustering and database sizes.
Exchange 2003-RPC/HTTP, cached mode, ActiveSync and enhanced disaster recovery
Exchange 2007-Unified Messaging, improved clustering functionality and options, multiple server roles and PowerShell integration
Exchange 2010-High Availability, RBAC, Archiving and Compliance
Exchange 2013-Simplification? Perhaps, there are only two roles (ok, later to be three) Mailbox, Client Access, Edge. Also Managed Availability, Data Loss Prevention, Public Folder improvement and tighter Integration with the Office Suite.
In addition let’s not forget the sizeable improvements made to disk I/O across all versions culminating with a 99% iops reduction in Exchange 2013 over Exchange 2003
Microsoft Exchange Server as a whole has grown into a mission critical corporate messaging platform. Along the way it’s evolved to meet challenges on both an administration level and on a business level. The changing face of both the workforce and the work environment has had a large impact on what a corporate messaging platform needs to deliver.
So what are the next steps for Exchange?
Well as I just mentioned, changes in the workforce and workplace are driving the change in usage of corporate information. We'll see how the adoption of new trends such as BYOD and on demand service provisioning have changed the way we look at messaging from both a security and delivery standpoint. The cloud and private cloud figure in the same conversations: how can we deliver quality, highly available service securely on demand?
From a social standpoint, the integration of web services figures to become an increasing part of the discussion. As we see now, Exchange, as expected, is becoming an integral part of a larger package, the Microsoft Office Suite. This means tight integration with not only the traditional Office applications but also the other Office Server applications, Microsoft Lync and Microsoft SharePoint, as we can see in Exchange 2013. This integration is not only specific to Microsoft products; we also see web services such as LinkedIn and Facebook joining the party.
All in all, the line between corporate communication and personal communication seems to be breaking down. The previously mentioned changing workforce depends on a flexible, mobile lifestyle that blurs the line between work hours and off hours. This in turn means that companies will need to deploy products that can embrace these changes and stay ahead of the trends.
As I see it now, Microsoft Exchange has always evolved to fill a need. What do you foresee as some of the biggest challenges businesses and administrators will face? What would you expect, or like to see in the next release of Exchange?